Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Vespers concert includes new Chamber Orchestra and poetry readings

Randolph College’s new Chamber Orchestra will join Chorale for a new twist on the annual Christmas Vespers concert this Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

The concert will feature a mixture of baroque instrumental and choral music, French Christmas carols, and a progression of readings that tell the Christmas story and set the tone for the holiday season. Randolph music faculty and members of the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra will participate with the student orchestra members and singers.

“Christmas Vespers will be larger than it has been in the past,” said Randall Speer, a Randolph music professor who directs Chorale. This is going to be a very neat opportunity to feature our students alongside professionals. It will have lots of opportunities for student soloists. The students are going to be very well represented musically.”

The College has held Christmas Vespers every December for decades. The tradition includes a candlelight procession in Houston Memorial Chapel, followed by about 90 minutes of music and readings that tell the Christian nativity story and address other topics related to the celebration of Christmas.

The main musical pieces chosen for the 2012 Christmas Vespers are Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and Messe de Minuit Pour Noel (Midnight Mass for Christmas) by Marc Antoine Charpentier. While neither of these musical pieces is connected directly to the Christmas story, Speer organized the program so that both pieces contribute to the Christmas Vespers tradition.

The text of Midnight Mass for Christmas is actually a regular mass, but its music incorporates the melodies of French Christmas carols. Each movement will be preceded by a student soloist singing the carol whose melody is found in the music. The carols are ordered so that their text follows a logical progression telling the Christmas story. “That allows us to have a progression of readings to support that,” Speer said.

The readings consist of poems by secular poets about Christmas. “The poems match the progression of carols,” Speer said. “Not only do they address Christmas, but every single one of them mentions music in some way.” Selected by Megan Hageman ’13, the readings will be presented by Randolph faculty and staff members.